ENCINITAS — As a result of the pandemic, the San Dieguito Academy golf team expects tee time troubles this spring. Golf courses are packed and the team’s start time has already been pushed back several times to accommodate the influx of additional golfers.
Everyone has seemingly flocked to the outdoors — golf courses, bike paths, hiking trails and campgrounds have become immensely popular since the pandemic eliminated many indoor activities.
With many people working from home, or out of work, golf courses in and around Encinitas are packed. Mustangs golf coach Al Zamora said golf hasn’t been this popular in years.
In past seasons, the students would practice around 3 p.m. when the course began to slow down. But now, people are golfing later than normal and the kids will have to tee off closer to 4:30 p.m. They will literally be racing against the sun to get nine holes in.
But the school doesn’t have to pay to play. The Encinitas Ranch Golf Course provides the tee times, driving range, putting greens and countless buckets of balls to the students at no cost whatsoever. This saves the school and the parents an estimated $10,000 to $12,000 every season, Zamora said.
“They’re there to make money, and we understand that,” he said. “They definitely support us, which is why I can’t complain too much about the tee times. We just appreciate everything they do for us.”
Further complicating things, the girl’s season was canceled last fall, so they will play this spring alongside the boys.
“This is an added hurdle we have to overcome because normally I would have 8 to 12 boys to play in the spring, but because of this I’m going to have another 8 to 10 girls as well; a team of 20 plus kids,” Zamora said. “Trying to accommodate that number of kids is tough. We have limited practice facilities, so we are still trying to figure out how all that will go.”
Competition matches pose an additional obstacle for Zamora and the team to overcome. Home matches, Zamora said, are easy enough — parents drive their kids to whichever local course is hosting the event.
But the team normally vanpools to non-local competitions. Athletes, parents, coaches and drivers alike may not be comfortable climbing into a van with one another.
However, Zamora remains optimistic. The students are excited to be able to play again and a modified season is better than no season at all.
California’s regional stay-at-home order was lifted last week, which allowed San Diego County to revert back to the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy colored tier system.
Sports like golf, tennis, and track and field can commence this month. But contact sports like lacrosse, baseball, softball and wrestling will have to wait until COVID-19 cases subside. Scott Jordan, athletic director at San Dieguito Academy, said that may take longer than expected.
“It’s unfortunate. I think the kids need an outlet, but safety is the most important thing,” Jordan said. “We are being dictated by the state, and they are saying ‘Not right now.’”